Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered health authorities to buy up swine flu vaccine for the country's entire 7.5 million population, his office said.
The decision came at the end of a meeting with top health officials to discuss measures to tackle the A(H1N1) virus that has so far killed one person and infected thousands in Israel.
AdvertisementThe prime minister's office put the likely cost of the vaccine stock-up at some 450 million shekels (115 million dollars).
Pharmaceutical firms are racing to increase their capacity to produce an A(H1N1) vaccine, once tests confirm that one has been developed, and hope to begin releasing stocks in late September or early October.
The World Health Organisation has unofficially estimated that the world's labs may only be able to produce around 900 million doses for the A(H1N1) strain per year, for a planet that is home to 6.8 billion people.
Global pharmaceutical companies are more optimistic about how much of the drug they can produce but, since each potential victim needs two doses, most of the world's population will inevitably miss out.
"The lion's share of these limited supplies will go to wealthy countries," WHO director Margaret Chan warned last week.
A senior Israeli health ministry official has warned that one quarter of the Israeli population, or about 1.85 million people, could catch swine flu in the next few months.